Have you ever been taking a lesson, and the thought has crossed your mind, "I have no idea what is going on" or "why am I doing this"?
One story comes vividly to mind for me. I was probably 15 years old and had an opportunity to ride with one of the great classical German trainers, not to mention one of my dressage idols, and of course the day before the clinic my horse went lame. Another owner at the barn graciously offered her horse for me to ride during the clinic, with this being my first ride on the horse, lets just say it didn't go so well. By the end of the 50 minutes session, the little 90 year old German man was red in the face, muttering incoherent phrases, and eventually took off his cap and walked out without a word. Lets just say, I felt very humble after that ride. I went on to have a great lesson the next day on my own horse, but learned to value effective teaching even more.
How do we determine acceptable teaching style. Is it in the way someone conveys an idea, or the goals that are established for each ride? Is it finding the right balance between pushing you out of your comfort zone, or learning to control fear the most important to you? These are all questions that you must ask yourself when searching for the right trainer or coach!
Some of the principles to apply when looking for a trainer or coach:
- Good Communicator
It is absolutely vital to find someone who understands the way you learn and can mold their training style to fit the needs of you and your horse. Being able to communicate in a way that you can comprehend and grow is a must when looking for someone to invest time and finances into.
Another important characteristic that falls into this category is being honest and open. Find someone who respects your time and can be honest when he or she is not able to keep an appointment. It is very hard to keep a working relationship with someone who is chronically late and always has an excuse for tardiness.
- Common Goals
Whether you are looking to show on the A circuit or just enjoy a stress free trail ride, it is important to find someone who can help you set appropriate reachable goals for you and your horse. Each of us is unique and has different ideas as to what we want out of our equine experience. Finding a trainer who shares your outlook will make the road to your goals smoother!
- Trust & Healthy Expectations
This is probably ranked number one in my book! Having an individual who puts the safety of horse and rider above all else is a vital when looking for someone to guide your education. This must also be an individual who promotes a healthy environment to foster learning and growth. Finally, someone who can find a balance between pushing you out of your comfort zone while promoting confidence is key.
Some red flags in this area would be-- Individuals to avoid would be those who are verbally or physically abusive, territorial over students or training, controlling or pushing the limits into fear or unsafe behaviors. These red flags may be a sign that that this trainer may not be for you and that it might be time to respectfully find a new trainer or coach.
When you find someone who works for you, remember to be consistent, open and honest with how you feel your training progression is going. This will promote an open door for you and your trainer to help you be successful and have an enjoyable equine experience.
Until next time Equestrianistas,
Suzannah Simon of SKS Dressage